Meet Peter Tateishi, head of the new Sacramento Metro Chamber

Jeff vonKaenel

Sports analogies. War analogies. Warren Buffet analogies. There's a treasure chest of analogies that CEOs use to describe their strategies. Over the years, I thought I had heard them all.

But then, over breakfast last week at Fox & Goose, the new Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, Peter Tateishi, used a Wizard of Oz analogy to describe how he wants to lead our region’s largest business organization. He wants to be the guy behind the curtain that gets stuff done. Somebody else can have their face on the big screen.

And since Tateishi took over the chamber’s reins in mid-January, there has been a lot going on behind the curtain. Nearly all of the Chamber’s executive team who worked under Roger Niello, the previous CEO, have left. The Wizard has to replace the wheels while driving the bus down the road. Not an easy task.

And especially because, according to Tateishi, it’s not just the wheels on the bus that are having problems. During the recession, the Chamber, along with many other metro chambers, lost members. Businesses struggling to make payroll cut Chamber dues out of their budget. As a result, the Chamber had to focus on signing up new members. But 60 percent of these new members did not renew their memberships. One of Tateishi’s goals is to improve the Chamber’s customer service.

Tateishi also plans to move the Chamber away from partisan politics. During the three years that Niello served as head, the organization took a very active role in electoral politics—supporting the arena, Kevin Johnson’s strong-mayor initiative and Republican Doug Ose’s bid for Congress.

Tateishi told me that simply electing Republicans won’t solve the region’s business problems. Instead, he believes the Chamber should focus on changing policies rather than on electing politicians. When asked which policies, he suggested that we need to reduce burdensome red tape, adopt best practices and try to streamline processes across as many different local government agencies as possible.

He also expects the Chamber to actively oppose the idea of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour within the city of Sacramento. Many businesses in the city think it would be hard to compete if they were required to pay their employees $5 more per hour than their competitor, especially when that competitor is just a few miles away in the county. Or in some cases, just across the street.

He also anticipates that the Chamber will be an active player in supporting economic development, particularly in the manufacturing, food preparation and construction sectors. These jobs tend to pay significantly more than retail jobs.

Sacramento needs a strong Chamber, where business and community leaders, regardless of their political affiliation, can work together to improve the region. After speaking with Tateshi, I realized that there’s going to be just as much to do behind the curtain as out in front.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.